The City of Oshkosh joins with cities and municipalities across Wisconsin in designating Monday, December 11 as Dark Store Day to draw attention to legislation designed to close the dark store loophole.
As big box retail chains and single tenant commercial properties use these strategies to significantly reduce their property taxes, other taxpayers, mainly homeowners, will see their property taxes increase as they shoulder more of the tax levy. City Manager Mark Rohloff, Oshkosh Mayor Steve Cummings, and local leaders statewide are calling on state legislators to stop this tax shift by scheduling a vote in January on Senate Bill 291 (reversing Walgreens decision) and Senate Bill 292 (closing the dark store loophole).
“Big box stores require a significant amount of city resources, including public safety and infrastructure,” said Oshkosh Mayor Steve Cummings. “Yet these same stores do not want to pay for their fair share of services they receive from the City and have convinced the courts to create a loophole, known as the “Dark Store” argument, to lower their property values. By taking advantage of this loophole, the box stores are taking advantage of their customers by shifting the tax burden to the local homeowners and small businesses in our community.”
“Big box retailers throughout the country have been using this “Dark Store” argument before courts in Wisconsin and other states,” said Oshkosh City Manager Mark Rohloff. “Midwest states such as Michigan and Indiana have already closed these loopholes in their respective states. It’s time for Wisconsin legislators to protect small business owners and residential property owners and close this loophole in Wisconsin.”
SB 291 closes a gap in Wisconsin’s property assessment laws that allow single tenant commercial properties, like Walgreens and CVS, to argue that the value of their property is not what it appears to be. As a result of a 2008 Supreme Court ruling, chain drug stores have been paying taxes on their properties in Wisconsin at half their actual fair market selling price; a discount unavailable to residential and owner‐occupied commercial properties.
SB 292 nullifies a related but different tax avoidance tactic. National big box retail chains and other commercial property owners are challenging their assessed values using the “Dark Store Strategy” to argue that their thriving businesses must be assessed for tax purposes as though they were a vacant, boarded up property. The Indiana legislature and Michigan courts have recently invalidated the dark store theory in those states. SB 292 makes it clear that the Dark Store loophole is closed in Wisconsin.
Retailers such as Menards, Lowes, and Walgreens are regularly seeking reductions in the range of 40%. $368,483,400 of commercial property is ‘at risk’ of reduction by the current “Dark Store” and Walgreen property tax strategies. Oshkosh could lose up to $184,241,700 of value which is over 5% of the total tax base causing a tax shift/increase of 5% for all property owners, including manufacturing and residential owners. Of the total $42,509,700 loss, the TIF estimated loss is $21,254,900.
Mayor Cummings and City Manager Rohloff will be in Ashwaubenon on Monday urging the public to contact their legislators. For more information on Dark Store Day and the Dark Store loophole, visit the League of Wisconsin Municipalities website at www.lwm‐info.org.
(submitted by City of Oshkosh, photo by Oshkosh Independent)